The Hollywood Bowl has been a fixture on the Los Angeles live entertainment scene since 1916. That first performance was an outdoor community-theater production of "Julius Caesar."
Students from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA are fortunate to have the venue so close. The largest natural outdoor amphitheater in the U.S. is only nine miles from campus, a relatively straightforward drive along Sunset Boulevard.
The venue continues to draw top performers, and due to LA's beautiful year-round climate and an average of only 35 rainy days a year, the outdoor setting in the Hollywood Hills can't be beat.
Through the years, the Hollywood Bowl has staged performances by Frank Sinatra, the Ringling Brothers B&B Circus (with elephants and trapeze artists), the Beatles, Igor Stravinsky, the Rolling Stones and Mikhail Baryshnikov. That list of popular entertainers is something UCLA students will find every month of the year.
The Los Angeles Philharmonic began performing at the Hollywood Bowl in 1921, and it is still there 96 years later, splitting performances between the Bowl and the Walt Disney Concert Hall. In addition to classical music, visitors can listen to the Philharmonic performing live to movies like "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "Harry Potter" and a sing-along "The Sound of Music" and "Mamma Mia."
But it's not just the Philharmonic performing. The concerts at the Hollywood Bowl meet diverse tastes, from jazz lovers to Jewel lovers, from fans of Ziggy Marley to those celebrating David Bowie.
When students visit the Hollywood Bowl, they'll see the latest version of the famed arched shell stage and several types of seating areas. The original Hollywood Bowl stage included a wooden platform with canvas tent top, changing to a more permanent structure with permanent seating in 1926. The stage has continually been upgraded through the years to improve its acoustics, using architects such as Lloyd Wright (Frank Lloyd Wright's son) and Frank Gehry. Rose Bowl designer Myron Hunt was tapped for the stage and amphitheater-seating layout in the 1920s.
Still going strong
This year, students can head to the Hollywood Bowl to see Stars of the Ballet with Misty Copeland, hear Holst's "The Planets," Sondheim on Sondheim (which includes performances from 19 of Sondheim's shows) and see the Philharmonic performing with Tony Bennett, Joshua Bell and Yo-Yo Ma. John Williams takes a turn conducting songs he composed from movies like "Star Wars," "Harry Potter" and "Superman."
Plan ahead and picnic at one of 14 designated spots around the Hollywood Bowl — many of them open four hours before the concert and walking distance from the parking lots. Bring your own food or check out the onsite Marketplace, which carries sandwiches, salads, sushi, drinks and other items to go. There's also "street food" available, which in LA is usually guaranteed to be gourmet. Foods range from tacos and wood-fired pizza to bahn mi. Bring food right to your seats, if you want.
If scheduling is tough, the Hollywood Bowl sometimes opens up to the public for morning rehearsals. Regular tickets start at $1 and go up from there.
By Deborah Abrams Kaplan
Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association